Chief Audu Ogbeh was the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between 2001 and 2005. He is now a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview, he speaks on a number of issues, including how he was pushed out of the party he once cherished, his roles in the impeachment saga of the former governor of Anambra State, now Senator Chris Ngige, theassassination attempts on his life and the challenges ahead of the APC among others.
The just concluded Anambra governorship election brought a lot of anger, especially from members of your party, the APC. What is your view on that?
Well, I must say I am very disappointed that tricks were played on Nigerians and Anambra voters through manipulation. The INEC chairman himself, Professor Attairu Jega admitted that one of their employees did not take voting materials to Idemili North the stronghold of the APC candidate.
What worries me is that within the INEC, as everybody knows, there are too many partisan, unashamed people who simply play their roles in support of a particular party for a particular agenda. My worry is also for Professor Jega who has built his name over the years but definitely cannot swear that he is in control of the organisation. There are some elements he can’t control. Although he will never want to bring his name to disrepute at the end of the assignment, what really matters most is the name we leave behind, and that worries me. Obviously, the Anambra fraud was well crafted. Anambra is so small that you can move from one end to another in 45 minutes. It is a very small place, so what was the reason why somebody could not deliver voting materials to Idemili North, which is only about a 30-minute drive? He did not arrive till 4pm, and when he finally arrived, result sheets and ECA were missing. It was too obvious! The guy has been granted bail and we may not hear more of it again.
What does this portend for 2015?
If an election took place in a small place like Anambra and we could have this mess, then there is no guarantee for free and fair elections in 2015. From what has happened, the usual platitude of the police that security agencies are ready, INEC is fully mobilised, has little or no meaning to anyone. The same moral platitude affects every election in this country, and it is definitely going to happen in 2015. This, of course, irritates people to the extent that they are calling for bloodshed. The issue, therefore, is for all of us, including those in government to recognise the fact that you cannot successfully subject a nation to this kind of risk for a long time. It is up to INEC to ask itself a fundamental question: Can we do it? If they cannot do it they should raise the alarm early enough. There is always the tendency to blame politicians. This is the issue. We are all apprehensive of 2015.
Do you think the planned national dialogue would have any positive effect on the polity?
I have been asked this question before, and I said there was no harm in talking about issues; but, Nigerians always say that the fault is the constitution. The constitution is not as bad as they claim, though there are certain areas that need amendment.
People now confuse it as a constitutional conference. They talk about the dialogue as if it would amend the constitution. I do not know if they expect that the proceeds would immediately lead to constitutional amendment or even re-writing the constitution. They also say it is a dialogue of ethnic nationalities. How many nationalities do we have? Will each nationality send a delegate? It is an issue that nobody has bothered to give a thought. There are three big ones, what about others? Will a state like Cross River send 38 delegates while the Hausa, Fulani send one delegate each? Will Igbo or Yoruba bring one delegate? We are confusing issues here. At the end of it all, they said we must re-define the terms of our relationship.
I think some of the issues we need to discuss are, may be, how to manage our economy, the size of the federal government, the cost of governance, the 75 per cent of our revenue to the centre leaving a pittance of 25 per cent for the states. Meanwhile, you hear people talk about allocation to education, saying it is 25 per cent. You have only 75 per cent left for road construction, defence and health. I think we may end up missing the train in the heat of emotion.
People will go there to talk about fiscal federalism, which is an element of active debate, but if it is about ethnicity and tribe, we may entirely miss it. This is because the issues being raised at the federal level also exist in states. Why, for instance, did we destroy the local government system? Could it be said to be the fault of the constitution? The constitution gives some powers to the local government, but what have some governors done with it? Who is calling them to order? Nobody is calling them to order. The local government is as good as dead.
Go to many states, the ministries of agriculture are as good as dead. What about health? Although we have built a few hospitals; how about primary health care? What has happened to our education system? What killed the teacher training programmes we had? The reforms we supposedly carried out have totally bastardised our education system. What is happening to members of the National Youth Service Corps? About 86 per cent of them can’t write good application letters. Those issues cannot be changed by amending the constitution. It requires a deeper look at where the structure went wrong and why money has overtaken our minds to the detriment of work and commitment to serve. That is a disease everyone in Nigeria is suffering from today. There is a high degree of corruption.
One new idea that came up recently from the Senator Ike Ikweremadu Committee was that there should be six years of single term for members of the executive as a way of dousing tension in the polity. What is your take on it?
This idea had come up somewhere in South America and the arrangement was that if you are an incumbent and you want to succeed yourself, that will not be immediately. If you do a good job in your first term, the people will surely call you back. I do not think an extension now would solve the problem. If we are going to do that, I do not think any of the current incumbent should be a beneficiary. This is because, if you extend the mandate, what would happen to those governors who are already in their second term? Does that mean they would have 10 years in office? Does that also mean that those who are in their first tenure would have six years when you extend it in 2015?
Could it be it what they are saying there is a need to reduce the venom in the re-election agitations of many and make transition process less cumbersome?
Well, that may work out, except that those who want to come in may not be too patient to witness an extension of two years in the life of current administrations. At least, that may bring about coolness in the nuclear reactors and make the political environment less violence-prone. It could.
You were among those who built and nurtured the Peoples Democratic Party, but along the line you left it. What exactly pulled you out of the party?
I saw signs that the party was gradually degenerating into the state of mafia. There were too many powerful people in the party who could not be questioned or challenged, one of whom was the former president himself. The truth is that we built the party before he came out of the prison.
At the launch of the party in September 1998, I remember sitting with Professor A. B. C. Nwosu and Charles Ugo, who was the chief press secretary to the then President Shehu Shagari. We pulled out of the crowd at the old stadium in Abuja that day, praying to God that we should get it right.
I was also part of the party’s constitution drafting committee with David Jemibewon. The dream was to have a party where there would be a debate, a serious debate that would raise the standard of politics. We debated on all issues affecting our lives and how to minimise personality conflict. And you would be surprised how we weeded out all sorts of irrelevancies in the process. Don’t just come in and say you want to be governor, minister and all of that; let’s hear your view.
You don’t just bring in somebody to be the governor of a state because you want the person to come and watch your rear. People should be able to ask the question: Who is this guy? I mean that some of the disasters we are fighting today are leftovers of ill-prepared candidates who became chief executives of different states of the federation. I became a chairman of the party and I tried to balance the ship in the turbulent ocean. Sometimes we had to protect the president against certain developments in the party, and sometimes we had to protect certain individuals in the party against a very powerful president because we have to do it. The challenge the party chairman faces in trying to please the president while upsetting the other people is enormous. That is what is happening in the PDP now. It is also a big challenge to protect the party too much, forgetting that the president also needs protection.
During the impeachment saga, I had to call Ghali Na’Abbah one day and said to him, “Look, I know that the man is a very tough guy to deal with, but I won’t let you impeach him.” He was a bit startled, but I explained that Nigerians are full of politics of ethnicity. Everywhere in the world, people are sensitive to where they come from. I said, “if you threw out Obasanjo after he had hardly spent two years, how would the Yoruba react?” The general feeling then was that he wasn’t popular among his people, but as the saying goes, it is when you kill a mad man that you will know that he actually has relatives. I told him that if he pushed him out and that was added to the Abiola saga, they would conclude that northerners actually don’t want any other person there.
Na’Abbah, a northerner, was Speaker of the House of Representatives, while the then Chief Justice of the Federation, Muhammed Uwais, is a northerner. Atiku Abubakar, who would be the immediate beneficiary of that exercise, is a northerner and I was the party chairman. It could lead to another civil war. It shook Obasanjo, but we treated it carefully. I said if we must sanitise the country, anything that would cause a major problem must be avoided. We had seen the civil war; we witnessed too many killings in recent years, so I told him that we had to be very careful.
Then came the Anambra crisis – the kidnap of the governor, Chris Ngige. It was a very strange development. And I said you could not kidnap a governor, lock him up in the toilet and try to swear in his deputy. He had been sworn in, so let’s wait for the court. The court would remove him if the evidence was weighty enough. After I left, so many other things happened. A governor would be taken and handcuffed while a quarter of the House of Assembly would sit in a hotel and impeach him. That was the mafia in action.
Who created the mafia?
Obasanjo, of course. He was the president, so there is no argument about that. But unfortunately, there were far too many cowards and sycophants in the PDP. And when I complained, I was tagged the rebel leader. I would rather do my job to God and man than to take insults. I had to wash my hands off. This is because I know that at the end of our lives, we have one God Almighty who will demand how we managed the responsibility he gave to us. What would be my answer? There will be no lawyers to defend me, so I left.
What exactly was your role in the kidnap of Ngige?
I left the party in 2005, but that was where my problem started from. I was going to the village because my daughter was getting married when someone called me from the secretariat, saying that Ngige had been removed as governor. I asked if there was an impeachment going on, but the person answered that there was none, adding that the governor was simply arrested and taken to somewhere. I started making calls until I got the chief justice of the state. I told him not to swear in anybody and he too left out. It was later I gathered some details and discovered that there was too much involvement of Abuja in the saga. However, we later managed the situation.
In November 2004, there was rampage through Anambra. The Government House was attacked, the radio station was burnt down, the TV station was burnt down. I reported the situation. But what baffled me was that while all these things were going on, the policemen around the area were sitting down with their guns, laughing, carrying their guns like ladies’ handbags and bandits were ransacking a government house. I found out that my anxiety meant nothing. Thereafter I got the information that Ngige was to be killed before Christmas. It was at that point I said: “This can’t continue to go on.” And then they began to shout, “The chairman wrote to the president. Who is he to do that; is he not a poor farmer from Benue State?” Well, I plead guilty on the count of being a poor man. I am not a rich man. But I won’t surrender my dignity to anyone. The president then told me at the time that he could no longer work with me and I said, “Fine, you will have my letter in 30 minutes.” And I left.
What exactly would you say was responsible for the travails of Ngige?
Well, there was an earlier election with untidy elements. You will remember that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) went to court to challenge the result of the election. But before that, I learnt that Ngige was already having some problems with the Ubah brothers, whom we were told were making certain demands which he was said to be declining. I think that was where the problem started from.
That appeared to be an intra-party affair at the state level, but what do you think brought in Aso Rock into this?
Well, I can’t give you all the details, but from the information we gathered, I learnt that the Uba brothers were very close to the presidency.
You said you were chased out of the PDP by a cabal. How certain are you that there won’t be mafias in the APC?
Yes, there is a tendency to watch out for mafias. There are stronger men in every political party, but dictatorship in a democracy is more terrible. The military make no pretence about arguments and debates, but civilian dictators can be very dangerous. If somebody contests for a primary election and wins but someone else says, “drop him, I don’t like him’’ even if his people want him, where do we go from there? It is not good to sell anybody’s position because he or she is not a big shot and does not have money. I will not do it! That is why we all have to rise and confront such mafia anywhere it tries to crop up.
Unfortunately, Nigeria’s tragedy is to be blamed on Nigerians themselves. This may be because of too many years of military rule. We are too weak and cowardly. We submit too easily. And when you try to argue, you know what you will hear from people? Na only you dey there? Why don’t you mind your own business? The society is in pain. Now it is a case of moral flexibility. People will say: “He is my boss, what do you want me to do? We are all in pain because of that character of a Nigerian. Apart from you guys in the media who take the risk, frankly, everybody out there is too cowardly to say “no” to moral impropriety in political parties.
Party members too should learn how to stand behind anybody who wants justice to be entrenched. But they sacrifice you as soon as they know you are fearless. They will be the ones to start asking: Who is he to be talking? But I thank God that I am alive; they tried to kill me unsuccessfully twice. I was to be kidnapped and assassinated on August 11, 2005. They came at 6pm and 11pm and I wasn’t around. Five men, three in police uniforms, two in plain clothes, came in two unmarked vehicles, sent by a big shot in the PDP. I was to be taken, wasted and dumped in a pit. That was why I talked about the mafia. And what was my offence at the time? I was arguing against third term. And it got to a level where there was serious crisis between conscience and convenience, so I told myself that I needed to quit.
There have been lots of misgivings about the recent merger that led to the formation of the APC, and there are concerns about the influence of certain factors and powerful individuals and many others who came to form the party. How do you hope to massage all these egos?
I once said that we had done the physics of the merger, but we hadn’t done its chemistry. The chemistry is more important because it deals with the tangibles. People get to know one another better and work together. That process is slower and may take longer. We are all praying and working on that. We pray that people should understand one another, appreciate one another, and more importantly, respect one another. I think we will get there as time goes on. The simple reason is that if we can all put Nigeria ahead of personal interests, we should be able to overcome these problems. Tinubu, for instance, is a person who is passionate about politics. He is very committed and has invested lots of energy and resources in it. We appreciate that. But we will all work together to reach a consensus on many issues. Of course that will take a bit of time, but I’m sure we will achieve it.
Politics all over the world is played by policies and ideologies. But can we really say that Nigerian politics is defined by ideologies?
Even ideologies are a little bit blunted now. Since the fall of communism, we now have the far right, the centre, far left and all of that. We may have the Conservatives in Britain or the Republicans with their non-regard for the minority in the United States, or the Democrats who are liberal. But at the centre of Nigerian politics today there should be justice and economic well-being of the people. Unfortunately, Nigerian politics is not yet driven by issues. We, the political class have not been able to build politics on issues. There are still not enough robust debates on health, agriculture, foreign policy, economic growth and manufacturing; even issues of youths and women, the disabled. There is too much concern on who wants to be what.
Our prayer in the APC is that we will be able to situate 90 per cent of our discussions and energy on issues. When we finish our registration and the party begins to roll on, we have been planning a whole lot of seminars, workshops, and we call in experts. This is because politicians are generalists, they are not experts in any field. So we will like to ask the questions about agriculture, defence and foreign policies. Why are we importing so much? Why is the naira dying in our hands, and why did education die? While I was in the university in Zaria I had a spare bed in the room I was living, I had a big wardrobe, among others things. We took egg and salad for breakfast. We were supposed to eat twice, but some big boys ate thrice or four times. The same room is now being occupied by eight students, no toilet and no bathroom. Is it acceptable that those of us who benefitted from Nigeria’s finest period are the ones allowing our children to go through all these? Go to Ife and see boys and girls sleeping on the floor. It is the same for UI, Nsukka and others. Shall we be forgiven by God?
We are short of 20,000 housing units. See what rents are saying in Abuja. Two bedrooms go for N2.5 million or N1.5 million. How do you expect these young boys and girls who earn N50, 000 to pay the rent? Of course, they have to hang around or stay at satellite towns that are very far from the city centre, where some of the houses are not properly built.
I was part of the Committee on Contributory Pension Funds. We used to sit in the Villa till 4am. It was an idea that Obasanjo, myself and Ekwueme discussed at one point. We have almost N4 trillion in that account now. What are we doing with it? Lying around? Why not take out of it and do social housing. Every country in the world is doing social housing. Enough of the statement from the advisers that housing is not private sector-driven! In Britain this year, government is building about 280,000 housing units. It is a project of the party in power.
In our own manifesto in the APC, we say we will create one million housing units in a year, and that will create 30 million jobs if we are able to do it. So even if you come in with your ordinary mattress, you can start contributing towards ownership. I chair the manifesto committee and we are also planning to open five development banks where you and I can go and take cheap credit. We are going to fix the interest rate at six per cent. Of course, the World Bank will tell you it is not good, but China has done it. The current 30 per cent is murder. So for us, it is certain welfare but with equity and justice. Let us make Nigerians happier, open the door for those who want to express themselves and let them be proud of whatever achievement they make because they do it honestly.
Already, people are worried about the APC coming up with an acceptable candidate at the centre. What do you say to this?
It is a serious issue, no doubt. It is one that has been bothering the minds of many of our members. We haven’t discussed it yet. I am not a member of the interim administration and I am not sure it has been discussed at any forum. It is a matter of concern to us, no doubt. It is also tricky. But we will find a way to deal with it so that we can find a way to present a candidate that will receive the larger support of the Nigerian populace. We realise that we are dealing with an incumbent who is very powerful.
Would the candidate come from the North?
It is not concrete yet. Some people suggest that he comes from the North. Some people say the East. But as it is, we will debate and arrive at a position.
Back to the issue of ideology, especially taking into consideration the issue of the recent PDP governors who defected to the APC. People are asking if their supposed “sins” against the party they are defecting to have been forgiven? Are they now born again?
Well, in politics you can’t totally shut your doors against people coming in. Yes, they have come, so I believe we can sit them together and tell them what we want to do and how we are going to do it. If they agree, the other issues you are raising can easily be forgotten. The main challenge, no doubt, is the personality issue. And that is why I am speaking against the use of violent languages. You and I are brothers. And since people are crossing from one party to the other, Nigerians should now realise that there is no reason why we have to antagonise one party too much because tomorrow, you may find yourself in the same party with them. The only way I think we can seal all these unions is for people to start shunning mundane statements such as, “You are naïve, you are useless,’’ and all of that. I have heard statements like that. We should start centering our discussions on issues that Nigerians want to discuss, the foods on their tables, the money in their pockets and education, among others.
When people say we should do free trade with Europe, I really don’t understand. The technology they have, we don’t have. Their interest rate is fixed at three and four per cent, ours is fixed at 30 per cent. We import virtually everything from them, including tooth picks, tomato paste and all of that. So it means all the money we earn from crude oil has to be used to service the economy of Brazil, Germany, Britain and the likes. Again, our youths have no jobs here.
Let’s focus our attention on issues and not the shoddy elements of who gets what and those who don’t fit in will find their way out. Politics is an intellectual business, not academic, but you have to sit down and use your brain. I was in Italy not too long ago and learnt that the country has 4,000 ceramic tile companies for a country of 55 million people. But Nigeria, with a population of 160 million people, has two ceramic tile companies. There is clay everywhere in Nigeria but we can’t produce tiles, whereas there is no clay in Italy, but they import clay in Macedonia and make tiles. It is unfortunate that ours is just to go in there and import into the country. And now we have joined the WTO to run free trade with Europe. Our brilliant economists from World Bank and IMF who run our lives here advised that such is a good step. Immediately we won an election, the World Bank and IMF forced one of them on us. And once they arrive, it is one-jacket-fits-all. Devalue your currency, sack your workers, import more and all of that. Since 1986 that they forced this Structural Adjustment Programme on us, the poverty rate has been rising. We need to cut down on imports. We don’t need to buy their biscuits and cookies; we don’t need to import tomato pastes. We can buy their aircraft because we are not planning that now, but to buy tooth picks and tomatoes is out of it.
Three hundred billion naira of importation from China this year alone! The same from Italy, Britain and many other countries. Fresh tomatoes from Lebanon are in our Shoprite outlets. Irish potatoes from South Africa are what you see in the hotels here while the ones produced in Kaduna and elsewhere are left to rot away in the bush. What kind of leaders are we? Nigeria is dying in our hands. I get very irritated when I think of all of these. If as political leaders we can’t deal with all of these, whose business will it be-the imams and the bishops, or the non-governmental organisations (NGOs)? So I am pleading with those who are coming from other parties to join the APC to help in addressing these issues. If we can, there will be peace.
How does the leadership of the APC hope to resolve the brewing crisis between old members of the party and the new ones defecting, including the new five PDP governors?
It is a serious issue. And it is generating tension. We have had cases like that in Adamawa, as well as in Kwara states. But the party has actually set up a committee to look into that. It is normal for an issue like this to come in every setting where some people are coming in and some others are going out. You know that if we are dealing in an ideal market where there is selling and buying of ideas, all these issues will be swiftly addressed. We know that when a governor, for instance, comes into a party, he may want to appoint a party chairman, the treasurer must be his person and all of that and he may want to take over the entire machinery of the party.
Maybe I am a foolish idealist talking about issues in politics. But long as we continue to focus attention on individuals and issues are yet to take the centre-stage of our politics, we will continue to have these problems. I know that the national interim administration is setting up committees to start dealing with the crisis.
It must be stressed that Nigeria needs to be careful because we have the potential for great things, as we also have potential for collapsing. Nigeria is the largest dam of people in this side of the Atlantic. If Nigeria collapses, where will Nigerian refugees run to? Will they run inside the Atlantic? How many hours will it take to overrun Republic of Benin, Togo and Ghana? Who will absorb us? Which country has an army big enough to come and make peace here? Many people don’t understand how difficult it could be if we explode. And like you said, the conflicts have been centered on too much personalities and egos. We are praying hard, and I can assure you that it is an issue that we are not going to overlook.
Would you be constesting for election in 2015?
There are lots of talks in the party but there is nothing concrete yet. It is a costly venture, but I know that a lot depends on the mood of the party. I haven’t offered myself for any role yet. It is an issue we have to be careful about because the party hasn’t yet decided on it. I will personally watch the trend of events and see how all the discussions will go. I will like to see an APC government that will create jobs, develop agriculture and all of that. We can always make credit cheaper, but presently, we are not doing that. Like I always say, this country has the potential of being the headquarters of private enterprise in the world.
There was a time the Central Bank of Nigeria gave out loans to farmers. As a practising farmer yourself, have you ever benefited from it?
Well, I applied, but I was told I wasn’t qualified because I am politically exposed. It is a new sin to be committed, which is unknown to the constitution. But I wasn’t alone. Prof. Jerry Gana was also not qualified. Former governor of Niger State, Abdullahi Kure, who has half a million chicken was told that he was not qualified. The same was done to Aminu Masari, among others. The banks feel that anything that has to do with politicians, they won’t pay back.
However, there are some mistakes that were made by the government too. When Yar’Adua put N200 billion in agriculture, we tried to advise that agriculture as a sector has many sub-sectors. The bankers then were looking at the account of the poultry farmers. They seemed to be convinced that they had fat accounts and would, therefore, make deposits every day. But I warned them that the poultry industry could not survive without the maize growers, the soya beans growers, the groundnut growers and because they need groundnut cake, soya beans cake and maize cake.
The production of maize in Nigeria is just five million tons, which is too small, and it is mainly in Plateau, northern Kaduna, Kano, Kebbi and Zamfara. But Zambia, a country of 12 million people produces four million tons of maize every year. So there is shortage of maize in the country and the poultry farmers who took that loan can’t repay now. The Central Bank has withheld its loans because farmers don’t pay.
Number two, the farmers in Zimbabwe do 10 tons of maize per hectare, but farmers in Nigeria do two tons. Nigerian farmers don’t even know how to plant maize because they don’t know how to plant two seeds. In Zimbabwe, they plant two seeds in a distance. On milk production, the Fulani cow in Nigeria walking around gives you one litre of milk in a day, but a cow in Uganda gives you 15 litres of milk in a day. In Israel it is 40 litres of milk in a day. The Fulani cow or the gudale is a very good specie because it moves around and burns lots of its energy, hence the milk is too low. If you can keep it one place and there is proper feeding, it will yield lots for us.
Finally, the old men who are in agriculture, I mean people of my age, are getting older and are still using hoes and cutlasses. There are more tractors in the state of Punjab in India than the whole of West Africa. There are a million tractors in the state of Punjab but we don’t have 100,000 tractors here. There are 12 harvesters in the whole of the country to plant and harvest maize. I have just ordered for machines used to harvest rice from China now. The machine is used for planting, harvesting and shelling. If we want to revive the groundnut pyramid, we have got to bring back the machinery. If we have the machinery, we can ask the young people to return to farming. A lot of us politicians, especially at policy level have no knowledge of and are not interested in agriculture.
We need more investment in agriculture and education. Politicians need to be intensely educated on their roles and responsibilities because many don’t know. Where are the old beautiful farms that Awolowo set up? They are gone! We need to start reviving them.
Did you lodge any protest letter or complaint at the time?
Yes I did. But I didn’t want to push it because there is one problem with politics. If you are in it you must be careful the way you shout, otherwise they will ask: “Is it because it is him? What about the common man?” They saw my farm. We are planning two tons of rice in Benue now. I have one of the largest cashew plantations in Nigeria today. Since I returned from Buhari prison or schools in 1984 I have been making tremendous progress in that area. In fact, at times I will load the booth of my car with cashew seedlings. Today, we are putting about 150,000 beehives there to produce honey. All I need is money. There are still a lot I will like to do in the agricultural sector.
See Audu Ogbe’s letters to Obasanjo.
The President, Commander-in-Chief
Federal Republic of Nigeria, Abuja
Re: Anambra and Related Matters
About a month ago, the nation woke up to the shocking news of a devastating attack on Anambra State, resulting in the burning down of radio and television stations, hotels, vehicles, assembly quarters, the residence of the state chief judge, and finally, Government House, Awka. Dynamites were even applied in the exercise; and all, or most of these actions, in the full glare of our own police force, were shown on the NTA for the world to see. The operation lasted three days.
That week, in all churches and mosques, we, our party, and you as head of government and leader of this nation, came under the most scathing and blithering attacks. We were singly and severally accused of connivance in action and so forth. Public anger reached its peak.
You set up a reconciliation committee headed by the Ebonyi State governor, Dr. Sam Egwu, and we all thought this would help calm nerves and perhaps bring about some respite. But quite clearly, things are nowhere near getting better. While the reconciliation team attempted to inspect damaged sites in Anambra, they were scared away by gunfire, further heightening public anger and disdain for us.
Bomb explosion in Government House, Awka
On Tuesday, the 30th day of November, 2004, there was another shocking development – a reported bomb explosion in Government House, Awka. Since then, the media, public discourse within and even outside of our borders, have been dominated by the most heinous and hateful of expletives against our party and your person and government.
It would appear that the perpetrators of these acts are determined to stop at nothing since there has not been any visible sign of reproach from law enforcement agencies. I am now convinced that the rumours and speculations making the rounds that they are determined to kill Dr. Chris Ngige may not be unfounded.
The questions now are: What would be the consequences of such a development? How do we exonerate ourselves from culpability? Worse still, how do we even hope to survive it? Mr. President, I was part of the Second Republic and we fell. Memories of that fall are a miserable litany of woes we suffered, escaping death only by God’s supreme mercy. Then we were suspected to have stolen all of Nigeria’s wealth. After several months in prison, some of us were freed to come back to life penniless and wretched. Many have gone to their early graves un-mourned because the public saw us all as renegades.
I am afraid we are drifting in the same direction again. In life, perception is reality, and today, we are perceived in the worst light by an angry, scornful Nigerian public for reasons that are absolutely unnecessary. Mr. President, if I write in this vein, it is because I am deeply troubled; and I can tell you that an overwhelming percentage of our party members feel the same way, though many may never be able to say this to you for a variety of reasons.
But the buck stops at your table, and in my position, not only as chairman but also as an old friend and loyal defender of your development programmes, which I have never stopped defending, I dare to think that we can, either by omission or commission, allow ourselves to crash and bring to early grief, this beautiful edifice called democracy.
On behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party, I call on you to act now and bring any, and all criminal, even treasonable activity to a halt. You and you alone have the means. Do not hesitate. We do not have too much time to waste.
A. I. Ogbeh, OFR
National Chairman, PDP